Category Archives: immigration

IPWA

Rustom Bharucha reports that the Progressive Writers Association has its origins, according to ‘its most distinguished founder- member Mulk Ray Anand’ in ‘the expatriate community of India students in London, who had charted their first manifesto as “progressive” writers in 1935 in a Chinese restaurant’ (Bharucha 1998:29)

Bharucha, Rustom 1998 In the Name of the Secular: Contemporary Cultural Activision in Inidia Delhi: Oxford UP

Protest 5.10.2012

Friends of Al-Aqsa

EMERGENCY PROTEST in support of Babar and Talha

Babar Ahmad

This is the last stand. Join us tomorrow.

When: Friday 5th, 10am -12pm   Where: Strand, London, WC2A 2LL, Map

Tube: Holborn Underground Station – Temple Underground Station

We Are Babar Ahmad, Stop The War, Muslim Council of Britain, London Transport Region – RMT, Enough Coalition, IHRC, Cage Prisoners, British Muslim Initiative, Muslim Association of Britain, Friends of Al Aqsa, Islamic Forum Europe, FOSIS, Muslim Safety Forum, iEngage and MDUK.

 

  Friends of Al-Aqsa Donate to Friends of Al-Aqsa Friends of Al-Aqsa Facebook Friends of Al-Aqsa Twitter

Details from We are Baba Ahmad campaign:

PRESS RELEASE

Emergency Protest in support of Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan on Thursday 4th and Friday 5th October 2012

Thursday 4th October 2012

The ‘We Are Babar Ahmad Campaign’ along with partner organisations, is holding a protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice on Thursday 4th and Friday 5th October from 10am asking for an immediate stay of extradition for Syed Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad.

As the Judges decide on representations from the lawyers of both men, it is important to note that their cases are very different from the others. Both are British Citizens accused of wrongdoing in Britain who have been held collectivey in maximum security prisons for 14 years without trial nor with any evidence being presented to them. The Home Affairs Select Committe which reviewed their cases has expressed grave concern. Boris Johnson, The Mayor of London has backed their right to be tried in Britain.

Dr Ismail Jalisi, speaking on behalf of ‘We Are Babar Ahmad’, said, “The extradition of these men to the United States must be stopped by the Home Secretary. The incarceration of these two men without trial and then carting them off to a country that does not need to provide any prima facie evidence even when it agrees that the allegations are based on actions that occurred here in Britain is quite frankly farcical.”

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) declared in July 2004 and December 2006, as did the UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith in September 2006, that there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to charge Babar Ahmad with any criminal offence in the UK. Since then in 2011 the CPS revealed for the first time that evidence had been sent to the US without ever having been reviewed by them. The Director of Public Prosecution has refused to prosecute the men despite being able to call on the Metropolitan Police to show them evidence that it deliberately witheld and sent straight to the United States.

As the Judges determine whether a stay of extradition should be granted to Babar and Talha the Shadow Justice Secretary, Sadiq Khan MP has backed the campaign saying “If there is evidence against them they should be tried in the UK”.

Partners for the protest include: Stop The War, Muslim Council of Britain, London Transport Region – RMT, Enough Coalition, IHRC, Cage Prisoners, British Muslim Initiative, Muslim Association of Britain, Friends of Al Aqsa, Islamic Forum Europe, Muslim Safety Forum, iEngage and MDUK.

ENDS

Details from the Free Tahla Ahsan Campaign site [now slightly dated, since extradition is immanent, see above]:

Talha Ahsan is a British-born poet and writer with Asperger syndrome facing extradition to America.

If convicted he will spend 70 years in “supermax” solitary confinement in ADX Florence.

Read on and help stop this injustice.

Who is Talha Ahsan?

Talha Ahsan is a British citizen born in London in 1979. He was educated at Dulwich College before receiving first class honours in Arabic from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). In the week of his arrest he had job interviews to train as a librarian. His mother describes him as “a serious, bookish young man… a very gentle, softly spoken and thoughtful boy.”

Talha has Asperger Syndrome (a form of autism). In a medico legal report of June 2009, a consultant psychiatrist described him as “an extremely vulnerable individual who from a psychiatric perspective would be more appropriately placed in a specialist service for adults with autistic disorders.”

He is also a keen poet and has received acclaim from novelist A.L. Kennedy amongst others.


Why is he in prison?

Talha Ahsan was arrested at his home on 19 July 2006 in response to a request from the USA under the Extradition Act 2003 which does not require the presentation of any prima facie evidence. He is accused in the US of terrorism-related offences arising out of an alleged involvement over the period of 1997-2004 with the Azzam series of websites, one of which happened to be located on a server in America.

He has never been arrested or questioned by British police, despite a number of men being so from his local area in December 2003 for similar allegations. All of them were released without charge.

One of them, Babar Ahmad, was later compensated £60,000 by the Metropolitan police after a civil case in March 2009 for the violent physical abuse during his arrest. It was evidence from this incident which formed the basis of Talha’s arrest two and a half years later.

Talha is currently making a final appeal to the European Courts of Human Rights (ECHR). He has now served the equivalent of a 12 year sentence at high security prisons without trial. He has never visited America. He denies all charges.

What is ‘Supermax’?

Imagine being confined in a 75.5sq feet cell with only a concrete slab and a thin mattress for a bed for 23 to 24 hours a day for every day of your life – the only window three inches wide looking out to a concrete pit…

This is the prospect Talha faces if extradited and convicted in the US – life without parole  in solitary confinement at ADX Florence, Colorado.

Virtually all of an ADX prisoner’s daily activities occur within the confines of his single cell. Food is delivered through a slot in the door, and he eats his meals alone. He receives educational and religious programming – and some medical care – through a black and white television in his cell. When an inmate is moved outside his cell, he is shackled behind the back, and subject to a strip search.

His cell window looks out onto the concrete pit that serves as an outdoor recreation area. The sun is never visible. Prisoners at ADX  rarely have contact with any other living thing, except the gloved hands of the correctional officers. Prisoners never touch soil, see plant life or view the surrounding mountains.

Prisoners in ADX receive one 15 minute social telephone call per month. Any call that is “accepted” (even by an answering machine) is considered “completed” regardless of the duration. Visits with family members are separated by a glass screen with only a telephone to speak through. The inmate is shackled throughout the visit.

In 2006, the U.N. Committee Against Torture expressed concern about “prolonged isolation periods” and “the extremely harsh regime” in US Supermax prisons.  It is little wonder that the former warden of ADX Florence described the prison as a ‘clean version of hell.’

What do his supporters want?

Talha deserves freedom or a fair trial in the UK. He has received a wide coalition of support. They include his local MP and shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan; novelist, A L Kennedy; former Guantanamo detainee, Moazzam Begg, and the civil rights organisation, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC).

The Government accepts the possibility for the case to be resolved by a domestic prosecution as the ECtHR highlights in their admissibility judgement of July 2010. In November 2011, his co-defendant, Babar Ahmad, initiated a parliamentary debate with over 149,000 signatures in an e-petition for a UK trial demonstrating the will of the British public for these cases. There are many legal precedents to try these charges in the UK.

One case is R v. Sheppard and Whittle (January 2010), in which the appellants were charged with possession, publication and distribution of racially inflammatory material on websites hosted in California. Lord Justice Scott Baker ruled the UK was the appropriate forum for prosecution as the substantial measure of activities constituting the crime, such as the writing and maintenance of the websites, took place in the UK.

The Home Secretary should also give special consideration to his medical condition. In the USA 97% of defendants plead guilty under pressure from prosecutors. A decision to try Talha in the US will only ensure his trial is as unfair as prosecutors can make it.
How does this affect me?


The Extradition Act 2003 devalues the sovereignty of British citizenship. It was fast-tracked into UK legislation without proper scrutiny. Under the current provisions, British judges have no opportunity to decide which country is more suitable for prosecution and nor can they assess the quality of evidence from the requesting state.

In June 2011 the cross-party Joint Committee on Human Rights called for the implementation of a ‘most appropriate forum’ safeguard. This would allow a British judge to refuse extradition where the alleged offence took place wholly or largely in the UK.

The committee of MPs and peers also recommended that the Government ‘urgently’ renegotiate the US-UK extradition treaty to exclude granting requests in cases where the UK prosecution authorities have already decided not to investigate the individual on the same evidence adduced by the US authorities. These calls were reinforced by a cross-party consensus after parliamentary debates in November and December 2011, as well as the Home Affairs Committee report on extradition in March 2012.

A country that has demonstrated such a flagrant disregard for human rights in recent years is not the proper forum for justice. David Blunkett, the home secretary who was responsible for the act, now expresses regret at its consequences. Any concerned British citizen must work against such a law.

 

The Education Commission. :: a militant inquiry into privatisation and immigration controls in education ::

Students, lecturers, admin workers and anybody else interested in education are invited to join a new group aiming to research and take action around the current conditions in the education sector.  In the wake of the UK Border Agency’s revocation of London Met’s Highly Trusted Sponsor Status and consequent plans to deport potentially thousands of international students along with further plans for privatisation across the sector, we propose to investigate and take action around the changing nature of the education in the UK since the abolition of the EMA and mass increase of university tuition fees in 2010. We aim to draw together student, parent, and education workers’ experiences as well as available data in order to produce and disseminate as accurate a picture as possible of the current state and trends in higher education in the UK.  We do so in support of and solidarity with current and future struggles in education. Our next meeting is on Wednesday 26th September at 6.30pm at London Met Holloway Road campus (the tower building next to Holloway Road tube station). Here is a link:http://www.londonmet.ac.uk/about/buildings/tower-building.cfm

Anybody interested in participating should contact: contact.edu.comm[at]gmail.com. This project has been initiated by Plan C London, it is however open to individuals and groups to get involved.

‘There is drug-taking here’ – UKBA round-up of Punjabis in Hounslow

Well well, profiled as welfare scrounger drug addict illegal Indian layabouts. The sensitive and thoughtful UKBA (DisUnited kingdom border agency) again doing its utmost to reveal the seamier side of enforced poverty in the so-called welfare state. ‘We are all in this together’ – so detain and deport. Its pogrom-bait. I don’t recall, say, Alex from Blur, getting done for drug-use (‘cheese’ is just a metaphor) and of course am so enamored by the even-handed approach to other students, like the Internationals at the MET. Clearly this item is a teaser to set another theme for the PROTEST AGAINST THE UKBA on friday.

Rest of the story from the BBC with video here.

PROTEST AGAINST THE UKBA on friday.

London Met Demo Friday 28 Sept 2012

From London Met UCU:

London Met – Defend Our Students – London Demonstration Friday 28/9

Dear all,

London Met UCU, London Met Unison, and London Met SU have called a London-wide mobilisation and march from ULU (Malet Street) to the Home Office (Marsham Street, Victoria) for Friday 28th Sept. Assembling at Malet Street for 1pm. Under the banner: ‘Amnesty Now – Save London Met – No to Privatisation’. This initiative is supported by London Region UCU, and University of London Union (ULU).

This Friday (21/9) the High Court will consider granting an immediate injunction (an effective ‘stay’) in favour of London Met Uni and against the UK Border Agency (UKBA). Such an injunction should allow for a full Judicial Review of the UKBA’s decision to revoke London Met’s Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) Tier-4 licence – an action that has condemned over 2,500 of our students to either forced university transfer or deportation.

However, even if an injunction is granted it will only be a temporary reprieve until the outcome of the Judicial Review itself – which is expected to take at least several months to be heard. Meanwhile, our license to recruit international students is still suspended, our current international students are still in limbo – particularly if they have more than this academic year to complete, and our courses/jobs still threatened.

If an injunction is not granted then we will be in the fight of our lives – not only for all our international students against an immediate and very real deportation threat but for the very survival of London Met as a public university.

We are refusing to sit on the sidelines and by mere observers of our destiny as others shape it. We are therefore fighting as hard as we can for our students, our university, and for real justice. We will have much more chance of winning that fight with your support and solidarity – as wonderfully expressed during last Friday’s UK-wide solidarity events.

Last week’s TUC Congress in Brighton unanimously supported the call for an immediate amnesty for our students

We now need your support once more – particularly, if you are based in London. We want as many trade union banners as possible on next week’s march/demonstration – along with as many colleagues as you can bring. This is not just a fight for London Met – this is a fight for public education as a whole.

Please send messages of support to mark.campbell_home [at] btopenworld.com

In solidarity

Mark Campbell
London Metropolitan University UCU (Chair)
UCU National Executive Committee (London and the East HE)
SERTUC Public Services Committee (Vice-Chair)

New Scanner for Student monitoring to be introduced (by your border-agent-tutor)

Trinketization must-have item of the week! this new electronic gadget from Opticon: website http://www.opticon.co.uk is a barcode scanner about to be rolled out at Queen Mary, to be used by seminar leaders to register attendance at seminars by scanning students’ ID cards.

[i am reliably informed from deep inside the administrative apparatus]

forget the new iphone five, this is the trinket you need for the proper management of scholarship in the knowledge economy

its sleek design makes it an oh so slick silver status object, with curved corners™

first an arm and a leg in fees, then electronic tagging as the staff are made agents of UKBA. FFS.

A reminder of the Centre for Cultural Studies position against being agents of the Border regime here.

Update:

—– Forwarded Message —–

MESSAGE FROM CCLS Director and Head of Dept, Laws

Dear all,

As a result of the tightening of immigration rules, from this academic year
onwards all universities must monitor students’ lecture attendance on an
ongoing basis. This encompasses students from all postgraduate taught
programmes. The attendance monitoring exercise will require the assistance
of academic staff members and guest speakers teaching postgraduate modules.
We have purchased scanners that read students ID cards. There is one scanner
per module. Each module convener must ensure that the person responsible
for the weekly lecture brings the scanner into the class, gives it to
students to record their attendance and brings it back to CCLS/Mile End
reception as appropriate.

It is VITAL that this is done every week as continuity is required when
checking for absence.

Scanner control

Modules taught at LIF OR CH SQ can collect and return scanners to LIF
reception.
Modules taught at Mile End OR at IALS by department staff can collect and
return scaners to Mile End Law Reception

We will start the monitoring exercise from week one, although for the first
two weeks it is trial run as class lists are not yet known. Your help in
implementing this is very important. As you know, foreign students are vital
for us and we must do what is required by the authorities to ensure our
right to sponsor student visas is not affected.

If you have any queries please contact Aqib (Ext. 8091 A.Khan@qmul.ac.uk or
Wendy Ext 8104 ccls-helpdesk@qmul.ac.uk).

There are some basic guidance notes attached -

Many thanks in advance for your collaboration with this task.

Kind regards,

Spyros and Valsamis

Australia tries out new cleansing immigration form…

A friend is applying for residency in Australia – the glorious points based immigration system.

She writes:

“I included a picture of this because I could not stop laughing when I saw this,  the government requires a “character assessment” to insure that you are “of good character”.  They have you get police reports for the last 10 years, and all sorts of nonsense.  Among the biggest pieces of nonsense is the form itself.  Question number 6,  after name, gender,DOB, and  the like is “Are you of Arabic descent?”.  RIght after asking you if you are a Chinese businessman.  Whether or not you are of Arabic descent is apparently crucial for the Australian government to determine if you are of good character”

 

Here is the relevant page of the form:

Immigration themed Op Ed from India that should be noticed.

This Op Ed appeared in The Statesman newspaper in Kolkata, and skewers the madness of Tory immigration/xenophobia/economic jingoism on this boggy Isle. The writer is a staffer on that paper – jolly good to see that the rest of the world notices your crap Cameron. ‘Independent ethics advisor’ my arse – he is called Sir, which means he’s hardly independent, nor ethical. And anyway, as an advisor, his job is to tell Cameron what he can and can’t get away with. Not a brake, more an alibi.

The moral netherland

2 June 2012

UK’s increasing non-EU visa restrictions and requirements are symptomatic of a country that has not yet found the means or the will to articulate its ever-decreasing position in the world pecking order, writes lara choksey

Of all the things that the Leveson Inquiry into the ethics of British Press has exposed, perhaps one of the most remarkable is that British Prime Minister David Cameron has an ethics advisor. Responding to the possibility of being called up in front of the Inquiry, Mr Cameron said that should any evidence against him suggest the breaking of ministerial codes, he will call in Sir Alex Allan ~ his independent ethics advisor ~ for consultation.

On one level it seems sensible to have someone in or around Downing Street who can determine the ethical dimensions of political quandaries. On another, it is disturbing that the leader of a country that has not ceased promoting itself as a moral leader in the world needs someone else to distinguish between right and wrong.

In terms of the international Press, there are two stories dominating discussions of the UK. The first is the Leveson Inquiry, which started off as a simple matter of investigating the hacking of celebrity phones by itinerant news agencies, and which has now begun to expose the sordid nature of Downing Street’s relationship with the Murdochs under the Cameron, Brown and Blair leaderships.

This in itself is nothing new; anyone who has watched an episode of Yes, Minister! would expect nothing more. But when placed parallel to the second story circulating across the globe ~ that of implemented and threatened restrictions on UK visas for those who do not meet specific economic requirements ~ the hypocrisy and shortsightedness at Westminster’s rotten core becomes ever clearer.

There are two issues at stake here. The first concerns Downing Street’s idea of Britain as a moral leader in global politics. The second concerns Downing Street’s idea of what constitutes Britain’s nationhood. The discursive frame through which Mr Cameron and his ministers frame Britain domestically and internationally reveals a central administration willfully ignoring the economic and cultural heterogeneity of the population under its control, as well as the hypocrisy of its justifying its actions to the rest of the world on the grounds of moral superiority.

Above any other nation ~ in terms of pure numbers ~ India is the country likely to be most affected by the UK’s increasing non-EU visa restrictions and requirements. According to the International Passenger Survey, Indian nationals made up the largest percentage (11.9 per cent) of immigrants granted entry to the UK in 2010-11. Of these Indian nationals, a large number entered the UK on student visas. Those entering in 2010 would have been granted a two-year post-study work visa.

Fast forward a year, and there has been more than a 30 per cent drop in the number of Indian nationals applying for student visas, with many choosing the United States, Australia and Canada as alternatives. This is partly because the post-study work visa was scrapped this April, and partly ~ according to some British university professors ~ due to the increasing hostility and suspicion shown by the UK border agency towards non-EU students, particularly those from South Asia. This observation is compounded by the fact that the total number of student visas granted by the UK to non-EU residents dropped by 62 per cent in the first quarter of 2012.

We could easily leap to charges of xenophobia, and speculate about a small island closing its borders as a four-year recession refuses to budge. The residual prejudices of post-9/11 homeland security become an increasingly convenient justification for reinforcing national borders. Yet, this logic ignores the pre-Olympic pro-investment road show that various British foreign diplomats have been charged with promoting in their respective countries over the last 12 months, encouraging non-EU businesses to invest in the UK.

In February, the UK immigration minister Mr Damien Green announced that from 2016, people not from the EU and not earning at least £35,000 will not be able to apply to be a permanent resident in the UK. The message is clear: the UK welcomes big business and high salaries, regardless of ideology or investment ethics. Diversity is embraced, as long as it comes with a thick cheque book. In return, multinational companies benefit from tax evasion and low borrowing costs on international financial markets. It is undeniably ~ at least for the moment ~ a mutually beneficial arrangement. Prosaic questions of ethics are put out of the window ~ Britain is in a recession, and dog will eat dog.

Why does this matter to India? Apart from the fact that Britain is still considered to be a desirable place to visit, study and live (although this view is undoubtedly changing), this matters because Britain is behind the times. Specifically in the context of India’s increasing importance on the world stage ~ both economically and diplomatically ~ Britain’s restrictions on non-EU immigration seem ridiculous. Such restrictions are symptomatic of a country that has not yet found the means or the will to articulate its ever-decreasing position in the world pecking order.

For the sake of argument, let us just speculate that Britain once had a right to claim moral superiority over other nations (we need not go very far back in history to look at the violence of such a claim). But as the Cameron government decimates the welfare structures that might have once allowed Britain to claim a certain moral superiority with regard to providing the infrastructure (if not always the materialisation) of holistic care for its population, the claim becomes increasingly fragile.  A national heath service, financial support for people at the bottom of the food chain, and ~ perhaps most pertinently in the context of the visa discussion ~ open borders for economic migrants and political refugees: these are some of the structures that might convincingly constitute the discourse of moral superiority.

Yet, in the last twenty years, these structures have become dirty words in Downing Street, replaced by privatisation, austerity and border security, seemingly in direct spite of the increasing scale of global poverty and warfare: so many people have never been so poor, and genocide has never been simpler. India should take heed: there is a fast-appearing vacancy in the global moral high-ground market that needs prompt filling. In an interview published in The Daily Telegraph on 25 May, 2012, British home secretary Ms Theresa May responded to a question on curbing immigration by saying: “The aim is to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration.” We might ask, what constitutes an illegal migrant? The term suggests an international law preventing movement between countries. However, while the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights decrees that a country should grant entry to its own citizens, there is no international law that prevents a person from entering a country in the first place.

Immigration laws are national laws, coded by national interests and national understandings of who should be allowed entry. Thus, we learn much about the way in which a country understands itself by the way in which it categorises those who arrive on its shores. In the UK, the terms of ‘illegal migration’ are clear: it has everything to do with economic status. Those who are not considered fit to make a significant economic contribution to the UK, quite simply, become illegal ~ outside legitimacy ~ and vulnerable to any form of physical or mental subjugation. The right to claim access to Britain is based on purely economic terms: this is the new model of national belonging.

Downing Street has thrown off the mantle of social responsibility, both domestically and internationally. Internationally speaking, its participation in Libya on the grounds of humanitarian intervention is laughable when we consider that there is a British Ambassador ~ Nicholas Ray ~ permanently stationed in Khartoum, Sudan. His purpose is to perform diplomacy with the al Bashir government, an administration currently carrying out ethnic cleansing operations on its borders. Domestically, the British government’s claim to provide for its population (as opposed to its citizens) is being made forfeit by the systematic destruction of structures built on the ideas of a common right to life, and the responsibility of government to provide for its population. The Cameron government’s policies are regressive to a Dickensian degree, and increasing internal unrest ~ characterised by last year’s riots ~ will only be kept at bay by Jubilee morale boosting for so long.  With the removal of welfare structures, Downing Street would model Britain as nothing more than a vast, transnational bank, complete with hordes of the hungry standing outside. From an international perspective, this is the only form of diversity Cameron’s government is currently interested in promoting.
The writer is on the staff of The Statesman

 

[10.6.2012 Lara adds: Clarification: I take it for granted that ‘morals’ are socially-inscribed codes, whereas ethics - broadly speaking - are a means of defending concepts of right and wrong actions. My use of the phrase ‘moral superiority’ is therefore performative - the description or impression of a national discourse, as opposed to ‘ethical behaviour’. A longer piece might make this distinction clearer, but I did not feel it was necessary to point out the ethical importance of, for example, the NHS etc.

To clarify my argument and take it forward: firstly, that Britain’s claim to moral superiority is being made forfeit not because it ever had a right to make this claim in the first place, but because the infrastructure supporting this claim (class/gender/race equality and equal opportunities and so on) is being dismantled: the discourse, or performance, can no longer support itself.

Or so it would seem from one perspective. However, taking this forward, I would suggest that if Britain maintains its performance of ‘moral superiority’ on an international stage, then the discourse (and infrastructure) of ‘moral superiority’ is now based on codes of economic viability. To be ‘moral’, in the context of Downing Street’s national aspirations, one must be financially solvent. Foreign investors are invited to buy a stake in moral superiority.]

Born Free – MIA’s Poetry After Guantanamo

A piece written before this week’s release of Bad Girls, coming out soon in Social Identities.

Abstract: The recent work of the Sri-Lankan-British musician and sonic ‘curator’ known as M.I.A. (real name: Mathangi Arulpragasam) is considered as a commentary on atrocity and read alongside the well known essay ‘The Storyteller’ by Walter Benjamin and comments on Auschwitz by Theodor Adorno. The storytelling here is updated for a contemporary context where global war impacts us all, more or less visibly, more, or less, acknowledged. It is argued that the controversy over M.I.A.’s Romain Gavras video Born Free is exemplary of the predicament of art in the face of violence, crisis and terror – with this track, and video, M.I.A.’s work faced a storm of criticism which I want to critique in turn, in an attempt, at least, to learn to make or discern more analytic distinctions amongst concurrent determinations of art A careful reading of Adorno can in the end teach us to see Born Free anew.

 

Keywords: Benjamin, Adorno, Gavras, M.I.A, music, terror, racism, orientalism.

PDF Here Poetry After GuantanamoFinalDraftSocialIdentities.

Train Research Group

This Wednesday 1st Feb, 4pm G3 Laurie Grove Baths is the second Goldsmiths meeting of the Train & TubE Research Section (ahem, I am not really suggesting we call the group ‘tatters’! Its just that the abbreviation TRG also does not scan).
all welcome.
The following few things sent in may also be of interest:
The Olympics Premium (aka buying off the workers with Uncle Tory’s fast cash bribes):
Russian art group Voina have done the ‘lunch on the metro’ stunt too (you need to scroll down to the third image):
Also, in Belgium they are making the point somewhat more directly.  This is the latest and most dramatic action on the Brussles Metro following an unpopular fare rise:

And a few things circulated from the UFSO:

 - here’s some inspiration – AD Block Sweden:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_w4tFMbUSo

Here is a link to a documentary about the struggle of tube cleaners from a few years back,
if you haven’t seen it: http://v2v.cc/v2v/Underground_Londoners
or: http://www.mediafire.com/?ixmtvvela3ia56e

And here is a great Hungarian Metro thriller ;)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kontroll

New Taussig

http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/I/bo11637787.html

Sonic Warfare

Steve Goodman’s book Sonic Warfare (2010) is full of interest and a vibrant new language for making sense of the sonic politics and affect – perhaps we should/must say attention – economies of contemporary capitalism. It also offers a useful note of prudence for those who too readily celebrate the sonic underground as opposition. ‘Global ghettotech’ is the agential site of an important potential, it remains to see whether Kode9 or the role of lecturer carries the day. I am not able to judge the inner dynamic of bass stylings over against scholarly erudition, but I have enjoyed much of the book. Especially so, where the discussion at the end takes up the thematic of piracy, just where perhaps the questions of solidarity and Party organization might have been placed in another kind of analysis. Nevertheless, as I prepare for a different kind of party tonight – at the Black Flag anarchist branded drinking house alongside Goldsmiths – Goodman’s examination of the pirate metaphor for business deserves a listen.

‘piracy… some commentators have noted … has become just another business model. When the most banal popular music is simultaneously mobilized as a weapon of torture, it is clear that sonic culture has reached a strange conjuncture within its deepening immersion into the environments of the military-entertainment complex’ (Goodman 2010:190)

The proposal Goodman has in mind here is the suggestion by Matt Mason that we think of piracy as the business model of choice for late capitalism (he means very late capitalism). This argument, more fully manifest in The Pirate’s Dilemma, sounds to me as if it is a logical extension of the capacity if Capital to adapt to hybridity by hybridizing itself. We have head this routine before. Romantic attachment to the newest so-called innovations of expanding capital has a pedigree as old as capital itself. Not for nothing was old beardo sticking it to the bourgeois professors who deserved nothing less.

Today, the attention economy is the pedestrian versioning of an explanation for hybrid or pirate capital, a development perhaps advancing on the neo-liberal parrot-talk of accellerationism and speed fetishism, but still unable to provide a diagnostic adequate to an opposition that could win. Insert details of Mao’s Party programme here/disregarding any disconnect consequent of the Badiou and Žižek auto-poetic personality cult (see the comradely love-letter to SZ at the end of Badiou’s latest Communist Hypothesis 2010).

Piracy of the creative high-seas low-fees kind is of course the navigation beta chart of future commerce lanes.

Indebted to Mike Davis’s problematic books Ecology of Fear and Planet of Slums, Goodman is at least full of interesting detail when he links pirate radio, pirate media, online file sharing, and ‘ubiquitous, decentralized insurgency networks such as al Qaeda under the slogan ‘piracy funds terrorism’, deciding that ‘the early-twenty-first century is a strange time to be an audio pirate’ (Goodman 2010:179). But this is a broad and abstracting brush nevertheless. The trouble with the import of Davis’s ideas on slums and cities is the undifferentiated mass flow perspective of the source commentator – like Žižek’s gloss on the slum as well, there is no nuance of distinction – the mass remain a mass of the old type, or even less organized. Hardt and Negri’s multitude are waiting in the wings and all we are left of wonder from afar at the coming conflagration. The migration of the ghetto-tech massive is celebrated as a threatening mutation of the global nervous system, a ‘rhythmachinic takeover of space-time’ (Goodman 2010:173) but not much more. Where this is dangerous is that there is an elevation of the commentary over the participation – the cult status of the DJ over the crowd, the named glory of the author is not far away. Badiou proclaims himself the last Maoist in France – a frankly Quixotic gesture. Davis does about the same for L.A. The real ecology of fear is, I think, a guilty anxiety of those intellectuals interpreting, while also wanting but unable to organize, that greater mass of those who will change the world. What we get here is a strangely familiar distanciation of the commentary, which of course then is readily lined up to do duty for the transformation and restoration of a new mode of capital.

‘Youth culture has reinvented, or rejuvenated, capitalism to the point that piracy has now become just another business model, a mutation from subversive cultural weapon to business plan; the situationist projection of art into the everyday becomes merely branding’ (Goodman 2010:181)

It is to Goodman’s credit that he is fully alert to these dangers: ‘sonic war machines’ he says,  ‘may emerge out of turbulent, underdeveloped urban ecologies, but their bottom-up nature does not in itself constitute an index of a moral or political higher ground. Caution should be shown … in celebrating the pirate economies of music cultures’ (Goodman 2010:194).

The caution here should be about whether or not we trust the rendering of youth culture mouthed by the academy (including ventriloquist exhibit a: yours truly). A similar note of caution might be useful for all those scrapping around for a metaphor or a diagnostic code for making sense of the new war economy attention and acceleration hype of hybridized mutant youth digital sonic shared p2p capital2.0 today. To coin the terminology of appreciation is still merely to coin – that is, to offer up a market coding currency to those that will thrive on the ideological mismatch of critical commentary and institutional stasis. New formations of the eversame do not move us towards an alternative to capital; only joining the mobilization of the ghettotech troop surge, the creation and mobilization of the people’s army, can.

Badiou, Alain 2010 The Communist Hypothesis London: Verso.

Davis, Mike 1999 The Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster New York: Vintage.

Davis, Mike 2005 Planet of Slums London: Verso.

Goodman, Steve 2010 Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect and the Ecology of Fear Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Masson, Matt 2008 The Pirate’s Dilemma: How Youth Culture is Reinventing Capitalism New York: Free Press.

Dragnets of London

Dragnets of London (for Raul).

John Hutnyk

I was on my way home on the number 436 to Lewisham recently when a woman did something I thought was both impressive and unusual – she spoke out against the delay caused by the 20 police who had boarded our bus. She scolded them for wasting her time and for picking on certain passengers that, she said, should be left in peace to get on with their travel.

We have become accustomed to these all-too frequent Metropolitan Police (MET) dragnet style interruptions. Such hold-ups are now quite common in my part of London, a predominantly black suburb, where ticket checks are used as a cover for an immigration shakedown – itself justified as part of anti-terror vigilance. I watched the police officers explain to the woman, in escalating aggressive tones, that her demand to know why the bus was being delayed was misplaced because officers were ‘assaulted every day by people without tickets’. This seems a strange and disproportionate response to a legitimate query from a member of the public. Travelling in a uniformed strength-in-numbers group of (more than) 20, some of whom were armed, suggests an excess enthusiasm of the transport police for ‘ticket inspection’.

We might be concerned that such policing will soon again result in further deaths like that which was visited upon Brazilian commuter Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell tube station in 2005 (shot seven times in the head by officers, no-one charged). There have been other unexamined incidents of deaths in police custody and the UK has an appalling record in terms of prosecution of official crime (see the 1999 film Injustice directed by Ken Fero and Tariq Mehmood). Another tragedy is primed to happen especially where commanders readily deploy disproportionate aggression if challenged by an impatient commuter. She was young, white, articulate, and had the sense to back down when the Officer in charge raised his voice and muscled up to her. No need to guess that any other appellant might not have got off the bus so freely. We other passengers, a few anyway, applauded her courage, but somewhat meekly. It does seem that a new anxiety pervades the streetscapes of the metropolis – a consequence of dubious foreign wars and suspect geo-politics, conjoined with institutional racism and a creeping resignation. Not many complain, but at least in this instance, someone did.

I was glad to have met her. We exchanged a few words:

Me: ‘That was great, well done.’

Her: ‘How can they do this, its intolerable.’

Me: ‘What is your name?’

Her: ‘Scheherazade’

This response is hilarious and smart – she identifies herself, sensibly choosing an alias, as the fabled storyteller who tames a despot with patient narrative over many many nights. Speaking truth to power, in coded repetition, Scheherazade offers a moral discourse through fantasy tales, Sinbad the Sailor and so on. Eventually the despotic ruler relents his power. The trouble is, I never saw Scheherazade again. But I remember her lesson – you do have to speak up.

Several months after the above incident, the MET have assigned dedicated public relations personnel to their inspection teams. Whenever I have seen the dragnet I have made a point of following that woman’s earlier tactic, and each time experienced the full force of MET customer relations, extending to a total bureaucratic run-around when trying to get a complaint about this heard. This is documented below in brief conversations where, while asking the most obvious questions, I find something very provocative – the ways speaking out can be channelled and contained are also to be examined.

In this first exchange, the ‘team’ were wrapping their operation up when I came by, so there was a sense of mild irritation with my questions, a kind of ‘shows over, on your way sir’ tone – which of course I took as an invitation to linger.

Me: [polite, ironic] ‘What’s all this then?’

Cop A: ‘We are looking for people without tickets, you’d be surprised how many we can arrest in a day.’

Me: [politely] ‘Hmmm, why do you need so many police, isn’t this over policing?’

Cop A: ‘Most people around here welcome this.’

Me: [politely] ‘No, no, no, we all think its outrageous. You don’t need to do this, you should go catch some real crooks, you know, corporate types, politicians, the Speaker of the House of Representatives….’ [the controversy over MP’s expenses was current news]

Later, to a different officer:

Me: ‘Why do you need so many police to check tickets on one bus?’

Cop A: ‘This is a message to people, we are being noticed. You noticed.’

Me: ‘Even when just one ticket inspector gets on the bus we notice.’

Stand around a bit, watch the slow process of a lad get a caution for riding his bicycle on the footpath:

Cop B: ‘Why are you riding on the footpath, its against the law.’

Bike-boy: ‘Its getting dark and my light is broken.’

… [some meaningless blather, bike-boy rides off]

Cop C to Cop B: ‘They’ll make up anything round here.’

I asked another cop who was in charge:

Me: [formal] ‘Who is the ranking officer?’

Cop D: ‘Why, do you need something?’

Me: ‘I want to make a complaint?’

Cop D: ‘Why?’

Me: ‘I think this is over policing.’

Cop D: ‘People think this is the free bus.’ (the 436 aka the free bus).

Next to him, a female cop:

Cop E: ‘You could talk to the sergeant.’

Me: ‘Him there?’

Cop E: ‘Yes, but he is busy now.’

[time passes]

Me: ‘He’s not that busy now?’

Cope E: ‘Just tap him on the shoulder.’

Me: ‘Surely that’s more your style than mine.’

I meet the ranking officer:

Me: [polite formal] ‘This is over policing, how do I make a complaint?’

Cop F: ‘Where do you live?’

Me: [taken aback] ‘Why do you want to know?’

Cop F: ‘You can complain to the duty officer at your local station.’

Me: [insistent] ‘Don’t you think this is over policing?’

Cop F: ‘Most people don’t think so.’

Me: ‘I disagree. Most people here probably don’t think this is a good thing.’

Cop F: ‘You are entitled to disagree.’

Me: [exasperated] ‘Not for long it seems.’ [gesturing to the 25 uniformed cops hovering around the bus]

And so yet another micro moment of the creeping fascism of contemporary Englan’ passes at 6.05PM on a monday night on Lewisham Way.

Another day, another routine: Stopping to quiz yet another bus dragnet gang with a colleague, this time we are referred immediately to the public relations London Transport operative ‘Daniel’. This sort of discussion, reproduced below, has become a perverse kind of sport. I know it does little, and now I know the cops see public complaints as a kind of sport as well. Nevertheless, as they say in the Homeland – ‘If you see something, say something’.

A conversation between ‘Police Liaison Operative Daniel’ and two unidentified subjects of the realm, designated as ‘US’:

US: ‘[polite] Why are you stopping this bus here today?’

Daniel: ‘We are arresting people without tickets, booking them for crimes.’

US: ‘Is it an arrestable crime to go without a ticket?’

Daniel: ‘Most people without tickets commit other crimes.’

US: ‘So this is a kind of entrapment? You could just hand out fines.’

Daniel: ‘We are keeping the buses safe.’

US: ‘They are not unsafe because people don’t have tickets. Why are these officers armed? Are those guys immigration officers?’

Daniel: ‘Look, we could be out catching terrorists in the ethnic suburbs.’

US: [incredulous] ‘Sorry, which suburbs, how could you tell? Do they teach you about profiling?’

Daniel: ‘Oh, I know the profile very well thank you. Is there anything more I can help you with?’

US: [exasperated] ‘How can we make a complaint about over policing?’

Daniel: ‘You can complain to me.’

US: ‘sigh’

There is no question that the border and border policing has moved from the airport and ferry terminal to the centre of the city and the micro-moments of everyday life. The border is right there on the street, caught between mild-mannered individuals and institutional authority, uniforms on the bus, exclusions and deportations before your eyes. A million minute forms of repression that amount to a generalized war economy. Always under suspicion, ready to have you tickets checked, your bags examined (announcements remind you to never leave them unattended), security fear becomes everyday and the power of the authorities to detain anyone that ‘looks the part’ becomes routine. A border has been crossed, a border has been crossed… we run willingly into battle.

Points-Based Immigration System in Context: 16 October 2010

Points-Based Immigration System in Context: Research and Campaign Strategies
10am-6pm, Saturday 16 October 2010, University of London Union, Malet
Street, London WC1

This conference will present new research on issues related to the
points-based immigration system (PBIS) as it affects Further and Higher
Education. The conference will assess:
a) the wider significance of immigration;
b) the full consequences of PBIS;
c) the characteristics  of new systems of regulation and surveillance in
universities and colleges.

The conference aims to offer both expertise in
research but also a focus for campaigners who object to the fundamentally
discriminatory nature of the rules.

Supported by UCU, ULU, Centre for Cultural Studies, Department of
Politics, Department of Media & Communications (all at Goldsmiths)

Speakers:
Les Back (Goldsmiths)
Tom Hickey (Brighton)
Georg Menz (Goldsmiths)
Liz Fekete (Institute of Race Relations)
Edgar Whitley (LSE)
Valerie Hartwich (Manifesto Club)
Joel Heyes (UKBA worker and PCS rep)
Susan Robertson (Bristol)
Andy Goffey (Middlesex)
Su-Anne Yeo (Goldsmiths)
Clare Solomon (ULU)

Facebook event:
http://bit.ly/PBISconference

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